BEEF Daily

Where’s Our Farm Bill, Congress?


Congress meets over the New Year holiday to talk about the fiscal cliff and the farm bill.

For many Americans, instead of celebrating the end of 2012 and ringing in 2013 with optimism and joy, they worried about what Congress would decide to do about the fiscal cliff and what the tax hikes and spending cuts would look like once the dust settles.

Yesterday, a deal was reached by the Senate to avoid these automatic tax hikes, as well as avert the “dairy cliff,” which would result in a huge increase in milk prices at the grocery store. This measure includes an extension to the 2008 farm bill. The tax agreement could face a vote by the House of Representatives early next week. If agreed upon, lawmakers now have more time to come up with a five-year replacement to the 2008 farm law.

If the measure doesn’t go through the House, the 2008 farm law expires and subsidies revert back to 1949 levels. For folks wanting to buy milk, this means the retail price would double to $7/gal.

According to Reuters, “Lawmakers have so far failed to finalize a new $500-billion, five-year farm bill to replace the 2008 legislation, which authorizes spending on food stamps and crop subsidies. They had agreed to eliminate $5 billion in annual direct payments to grain, cotton and soybean growers - subsidies deemed wasteful at a time of high prices and record farm income.

“The extension of the 2008 farm law would buy time for Congress to complete a new farm bill and still would allow for another round of direct payments. However, three dozen programs in the law have no money left, including disaster relief and biofuel development, as well as a soil conservation program and some rural economic development and agricultural research programs.

“As the year-end deadline drew closer, farm-state lawmakers had drafted a one-year fix that would have included disaster relief money for livestock producers hurt by drought. It also would have created a new dairy subsidy program to compensate farmers when feed costs are high and milk prices are low. But that was nixed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell during the final hours of fiscal cliff talks.”

If an extension doesn’t get passed, dairy prices won’t be the only thing that will trouble Americans. Renewable energy programs, conservation programs, beginning farmer and rancher programs, and disaster programs will all be gone.

Congress needs to act and soon, before we revert back to 1940s levels. However, in conversations with fellow farmers and ranchers, most can’t decide where the priorities of the farm bill lay, so how can we expect Congress to come to an agreement or even understand what they are agreeing to?

It’s time to pick up that phone and have a conversation with your elected officials. Get the scoop on the fiscal cliff and farm bill. We have sat in limbo wondering for far too long.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Amy Greer (not verified)
on Jan 2, 2013

Mitch McConnell is the one that vetoed an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. Any idea what the Republicans think about cuts to the Farm Bill? I really don't have a handle on whether or not they will support agriculture or if we get the cuts along with SURE & WIC.

William J. Neal (not verified)
on Jan 2, 2013

It is interesting how far we've fallen as a nation and as an agriculture community. The federal government has no business being in the milk business or anyother business for that matter except protection and mail. Consider how they've screwed those two up. Why is it that when we know that the bitter pill must come we are unwilling to be the first to swallow it. I realize that there are decades of government regulation that have perverted the free-market but I for one am ready for the inevitable crash

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 2, 2013

The best thing would be for the government to get out of agriculture, particularly subsidies, except for very rare cases. In the long run, only congressmen and the government are winners in the farm bill game. For every dollar they give agriculture, it looses a couple because when they take money from Peter to give to Paul, they keep some as campaign contributions and salaries.

Worst of all, marketplace prices adjust to extract the equivalent of the government benefits from the subsidy recipients. Read the book " Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture" and you will want a much different farm bill. . Puts a different light on "We're from the government and we're here to help you."

Charlie Kraus (not verified)
on Jan 2, 2013

Could someone please explain in clear and verifiable terms just how the 1949 farm bill will lead to a doubling of retail milk prices paid by consumers. Such is the claim made by senator Charles Schumer and Ag Secratary Vilsack and dutifully reported by CNN, but how exactly does that work?

I understand the part about the federal government buying milk from farmers at higher prices, but what does the government do with the milk? Does it disappear? Or does it reach consumers some other way at some other price? The world wonders.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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